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Woodland Democrat - January 1, 2016

Clergy corner: Let’s move from fear to friendship

By Khalid Saeed, Director Woodland Mosque & Islamic Center

Year 2015 was slouching towards its end and the year’s most festive time was about to start when on Dec. 2, in our country’s came the 355th mass shooting in San Bernardino.KHALID SAEED

A Syed Farooq shot and killed 14 people in a holiday party. It is tragic, it is so sad and my heart goes out to victims and their families that they had to endure this pain and loss in these festive days. We can speculate, but we still do not know the real motives or what triggered this senseless killing which happened in a work place holiday celebration party.

Unfortunately for the American Muslim community the killer had a Muslim name and using guilt by association the rhetoric of many political candidates has leaned toward inciting hatred and even condoning street mob mentality against a peace loving 7-million-strong American Muslim community.

A life in my religion is not only of infinite value, it is also sacred. Taking one’s own life is forbidden and Islam strictly forbids killing of the innocent. Even government cannot kill without due process. “Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Qur’an, 5:32)

One candidate in particular is using this tragedy and spinning it in the most vitriolic ways for political points. It is tragic and it is very sad when any person, who wants to be leader not only of our great nation but of the free world, purportedly wants to lead our country fanning the flames of hatred, bigotry, divisiveness and isolationism.

According to a mass shooting tracker maintained by the “Guns Are Cool,” a shooting is considered mass shooting when in an incident four or more people are killed. According to their report San Bernardino was the 355th mass shooting incident of year 2015. Even one incident is too many, but out of these 355 incidents we only found only four incidents in 2015 where people with Muslim names were involved. So of all those other 351 shootings, the perpetrators and motives get some temporary attention and noise and then are forgotten until the next incident at schools, at a mall, or a movie theater.

Our nation has a much bigger problem of hate being created by politicians and self-interest groups. There are groups, and foundations which organize and fund hate, bigotry in a systematic continuous fashion created for the sole purpose to generating hate and fear against others.Updated Newspaper Endorsements2

Hate certainly affects Muslims in the worst possible way, but if we look closely, it actually hurts all Americans. If we accept hate against one individual or a group then hate becomes an accepted phenomenon and part of a group, culture or a nation.

On the evening of June 17, ‘Charleston church massacre’ occurred at a black church during a prayer service, where nine people were killed by a gunman, including the senior pastor. Heidi Beirich, the director of the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center said that the gunman Dylann Roof’s reported self-declared motivation reflected a major topic on white supremacist websites, which are preoccupied with the idea that “whites are being hugely victimized by blacks and no one is paying attention.”

Later Roof is reported to say that he wanted to start a race war. Alarmingly, Roof was not charged with terrorism but charged for federal hate crimes and firearms charges.

On Oct.1, we faced another mass shooting where 10 people were killed when gunman Chris Mercer opened fire at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College. Mercer had hate against and targeted Christians specifically, according to the father of a wounded student.

The New York Time reports that on Nov. 27, motivated by his religious convictions, Robert Lewis Dear opened fire inside a planned parenthood Clinic in Colorado killing three and injuring nine people.

Only one of those four people was a Muslim but they all seem to be motivated by hate in their hearts, which for some reason created intolerance for the others, and eventually they acted upon their hate in most savage way.

There certainly are some forces creating a culture of hate and intolerance, but peace loving silent Americans need to stand up to hate, get united and active to create a culture of peace, love and getting along. This hate can be won only through love and harmony which is the main objective of the American Muslim Voice Foundation.

The AMV is a national organization (started by Muslims but for all Americans) has just started a campaign to build inter-community, inter-faith peace, harmony and unity. By joining hands with all our friends and partners we plan to organize united candlelight prayer services at all religious or cultural places, at a Mosque, a Synagogue, a Church, Temple or a Gurdawara.

The AMV Foundation’s local communication director Dr.Firdos Sheikh said it best, “God willing, we are off to a great start in 2016 with a National Campaign for new hope, a new message, and a new culture of peace. The AMV is a platform that integrates all elements of Humanism such as love, respect, faith, culture, tolerance and unity of all the people of the world and celebrating love, harmony, peace, and above all ushering in unified solidarity!”

Please join us at Woodland Mosque and Islamic Center on at 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 10, for a united, “Hands Around the Mosque” Inter-Community, Inter-Faith Candlelight Prayer Service and kick start a national wave of Peace-Harmony and Unity.